Monthly Archives: January 2011

Drake MIA

About an hour ago, the ducks and geese came running out of the woods, headed straight for the house.  Conspicuously absent was our drake.  We’ve walked the creek bed and there is no sign of him.  Also, the remaining ducks are all huddled under their house, looking rather freaked out.  It’s all circumstantial evidence, but I think he was picked off by something this morning, possible while defending his five ladies.

This wouldn’t have happened if Watson was still alive.

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Pullet eggs

 

pullet chicken egg, chicken egg, duck egg, double yolk duck egg

 

We got our first pullet eggs from the chickens today.  Three to be exact.  As you can see from the picture above, pullet eggs (the eggs chickens lay when the hens first start laying) are rather small.  The awesome part is that the yolks are almost as big as a normal chicken egg, meaning the yolk to white ratio is way in favor of yolk, which makes for fantastic fried eggs.

The even more awesomeness is that in another week or so we should have enough eggs to start selling them to the restaurant, marking the first time we’ll actually get any payment for what we’ve been doing these last seven months.  Woohoo!!!

Wherein I admit to eating a rodent

Some of Will’s wine buddies are also hobby hunters, one of whom owns a ranch out in CO.  As part of managing the land, he also has to manage the elk population, which means he comes back to VA with coolers full of elk meat.  So the guys all decided to have a wild game night, as a means of getting to taste an elk steak.

Unfortunately, this coincided with Will’s mild flu/major cold this past weekend (he was so disappointed you’d think they’d canceled Christmas), making it so his contribution to said dinner became our Monday night meal (sorry, Meatless Mondays).  And that meal was squirrel.

I know, I was even more hesitant than you.  But then I realized I can’t really remember that last time Will cooked a meal that wasn’t amazing, so I had to give it a go.  So here it is, braised squirrel in mustard cream sauce, served over french lentils and boiled potatoes.


The sauce gets most of the credit, but I have to admit the meat was quiet flavorful… like rabbit but a bit more game-y (in a good way), and surprisingly tender.  The downside is that the meat to bone ratio is a bit like eating wild quail, i.e. you spend more time finding the prize than eating it.  Even Alston cleaned his plate.

I guess this means I’m officially country, as I would definitely eat tree rat again.

Wood stove grilling

A few years ago, I got Will a tuscan grill for his birthday (or maybe Christmas?).  It’s not as fancy a device as it sounds.  It’s a cast iron grill, 14″ square, on short little legs, maybe 3 inches tall, which you’re suppose to place over a fire pit or even in a fireplace in order to grill over wood.  Last night, Will tried it in our modest sized Jotel wood burning stove.


It worked quite well, as the stove does a better job of drawing up the smoke than our oven hood (I’m a little bitter about that, given the hood is brand new).


Yes, those steaks tasted just as good as they look.

So how are you cooping with this absurdly cold winter?

I’m attending TedxManhattan

On February 12th, TedxManhattan is hosting a conference entitled “Changing the Way We Eat” and just got accepted as an attendee.

Besides a great excuse to head up to New York, I’ll get to hear some awesome speakers on the sustainable food front and hopefully network with some other farmers and restaurant owners trying to do the same thing.  I’m very excited.

This sounds like the perfect pre-planting motivator!

Sick Day

Will is laid up with what may very well be the flu.  He thinks it just a cold, but he’s ache-y, and while Alston and I are sniffley, we also got flu shots unlike a certain husband of mine.   Which is to say, I got to do all the animal chores today.  None of which could have been accomplished if not for the aid of Wallace and Grommet to keep the toddler entertained.

First up is letting the ducks out of their house.  We used to race out to do this first thing when we woke up, but now that we’re getting eggs we let them stay in until 8ish to be sure they actually lay in their house.  This morning I collected three.  Exciting!

Next up I fed the pigs, who came out from the relative warmth of their house when they heard the ducks.  Our gilts get rather overly excited at the prospect of food, and they nearly knocked me over as I headed through their yard, bucket in hand.  In sheer anticipation, they stick their faces right over their feed trough so I have to sprint back to the other not-blocked-by-anxious-snouts trough, dump in half the food and when they rush after breakfast I head back to the first trough and deposit the rest of their grain.  Otherwise, it all ends up on their faces.

Then comes the chickens, which is just a matter of letting them out and topping up their food at this point.  Finally, I added some more grain for the sheep, as their hay was half full.  Not too bad.

Oh wait, I have to water everyone, too?  And it’s 20 degrees outside?  Luckily it turns out this isn’t as bad as I expected.  The tap outside is frozen so I filled a 5 gallon bucket using the wash sink in the basement and schlep it out to the pigs.  They appeared disappointed that it wasn’t more food.

I then broke a hole in the ice of the pond and the ducks came a runnin’.  I must say, they are not graceful ice skaters, although the geese are even worse.  They are heavy enough to occasionally plunge a leg through, creating their own watering hole.  The gaggle ended up taking a morning swim up the creek, where the current keeps things a bit less frozen.

Another bucket, this time of warm water, was then dragged to the chickens to unfreeze their waterers, after kicking them enough to knock the ice out of the plastic bottoms.  The last gallon of warm water helped me break up the ice on the sheep’s tub, and Scout helped herself to a drink despite my stabbing at the ice with a screw driver.

All in, it took maybe 45 minutes, but I wasn’t rushing by any means.  Since I only get to see the animals on weekends given the shortened daylight of winter, it was restoring to actually contribute to the farm beyond my paycheck.  I can see why Will loves it.

$16,000

That’s the rounded version of how much we’ve spent in farm expenses thus far.  I should clarify and say that’s the amount of receipts we kept stuffed in a drawer, which I’ve now keyed into a spreadsheet because I’m type A like that.  And I want our accountant to like me.


Infrastructure: Over $10,000 was spent on things like fencing/electric fencing, building materials for animal housing (wood, roofing, paint), start-up gear (hay feeder, waterers, brooding lamps), and other various tools.  While this has been a boon to our credit card company, I take comfort in the fact that these are largely start-up costs.  Sure, we’ll need another shovel or another coat of paint, but it should be years before we build another pig house.

Feed comes in at No. 2, which is to be expected given we’re using organic grain.  We’re paying at least twice what conventional feed costs, but that’s our choice.

As for animals, the hope is that this cost will come down for 2011 as well.  We may order some turkeys and some additional geese, but next year’s sheep, pigs and chickens should all be born here on the farm.  Of course, if we add any new animals (rabbits or bees), that will also incur additional infrastructure costs.

Misc. Operations includes everything from straw for animal bedding to work pants for Will to chainsaw fuel.  These are expenses we’re likely to continue to incur, but that we wouldn’t have experienced back in our city house.

The apple trees are all the plant expenses so far.  This is going to get much higher as we order seeds for the spring.  And blueberry bushes.

We’ve been lucky with vet bills so far, and we’ve clearly failed to keep our gas receipts, but overall I’m not too surprised by the numbers.  It felt like we were building a farm in 2010 vs. actually farming.  But you can see what I mean when I say the mere pint of raspberries and 4 dozen duck eggs were rather expensive undertakings.